Eating out: Lucinda O'Sullivan at The Exchequer
"There are no airs and graces about food and drink, but you'd have to earn a pretty penny to afford one of their bottles of wine"
I could probably sit down every second week and write about an eatery that has "just opened" in Ranelagh.
This suburban village, for many years best known for being a Dublin flatland, with launderettes, cheap takeaways, and cafes, morphed into a hot residential spot for yuppies during the boom.
Consequently, between those well-settled yuppies and hip flatlanders, Ranelagh now has a queue of restaurateurs and investors snapping up every square foot that hits the market.
The Exchequer Wine Bar is the newest addition to the strip – at the time of writing! Already established as a gastropub in Exchequer Street, the new wine bar has taken up residence in what was formerly Diep Noodle Bar – which diversified into Diep at Home, with branches all over the city.
It's very Spanish in essence and, from the bar at the front, they serve antipasti plates (small, €15.95/large, €26.95) and cured-meat selections, Irish, Italian or Spanish, at €16.95; while, to the back, is the sit-down dining area, with a more extensive menu.
As well as wine and beer, it's all about cocktails here, too – as it is everywhere nowadays. On arrival, my friend, Paul, was scoffing The Last Diocese (€10), a concoction of Glendalough Poitin, chartreuse, maraschino liqueur and lime juice. I stuck with a less complicated caipirinha (€10).
Starters, or, perhaps, small plates (€7.50-€9.95) included carpaccio of beef; smoked salmon; rabbit and pistachio terrine; bruschetta of vine plum tomatoes, bocconcini (a type of mozzarella), black olives and basil oil (not cheap at €9.95); and other antipasti-style assortments.
Oysters – traditional, tempura or Thai-style – are €13.95 for six. Foie gras and chicken liver parfait (€9.95), topped with spiced apple chutney, is served with rocket and toasted ciabatta. However, it didn't taste good, being quite strong and sharp, as well as too hard and dry.
On the other hand, the chorizo lollipops (€7.50) were scrumptious and very moreish. Mains included chargrilled steaks – a 16oz rib on the bone at €24.95, or 10oz sirloin at €21.95; while smoked haddock, pea and spinach risotto (€15.95) was served with a poached egg.
Paul had the special of the day, which was a delicious Spanish-style dish of succulent, browned, roasted pork belly (€17.95) on sauteed potatoes, black pudding and vine tomatoes.
Slow-cooked, tender pulled shoulder of lamb (€17.95) sat on giant couscous in a colourful, Moroccan-style bowl, accompanied by flatbread, ribbon cucumber, mint yoghurt, beetroot and rocket. The only downside was the giant couscous, which is hard work to eat and sort of reminds me of school sago – tasteless frogspawn.
We passed on puddings in favour of cheese, which was available in three different selections – Italian, Irish or Spanish, at €13.95/€14.95. Spanish it was – a well-presented combination of delicate enough slices of queso de tetilla, Manchego and Valdeon PDO, dressed with fig halves, chutney, grapes, biscuits and bread sticks – but it's very expensive at €14.95, if you only want a little post-dinner cheese nibble.
Their mission statement says, "the Exchequer Wine Bar does not have airs and graces, and we are not food and wine snobs."
While that's to be applauded, and we really enjoyed ourselves, I found myself having to look discreetly for a reasonably priced wine on what is an extensive list, which starts at €23 by the bottle, gallops to the late €20s, and jumps Bechers Brook, with most wines being over the €30/€40 mark.
With a bottle of Sicilian Mandoleto Catarratto 2013 (€28), our bill, including optional service, came to €128.30. I'm not a food snob, either!
The Exchequer Wine Bar, 19 Ranelagh, D6. Tel: (01) 421-5780. www.theexchequer.ie
Three to try: grape and grub
La Ruelle, 3-4 Joshua Lane, Dawson Street, Dublin 2. Tel: (087) 386-7711, www.laruelle.ie
Style: A cool, contemporary wine-bar haven in Dublin's Golden Mile. A good range of tapas and bites; charcuterie and cheese selections, plus a plat principaux. Menu choices range from crispy squid to beef bourguignon, and duck leg confit to sirloins
Price: €2.50-€19.50; 4-course set menu, €28.50
Try: Tartiflette – potato gratin, onions, smoked lardons and reblochon cheese. Small, €7.50; large, €13.95
Wine: From €23
Waterfront House Restaurant & Wine Bar, Seafront, Cliff Road, Enniscrone, Co Sligo. Tel: (096) 37120, www.waterfronthouse.ie
Style: Waterfront House is on the seafront, beside the seaweed baths. Lots of seafood specials on offer, plus steaks and other meats
Price: €4.95-€24.95; early bird 2/3-course, €19/€24
Try: Enniscrone's seafood bake – cod, salmon, prawns and crab claws, baked in a Chablis cream veloute, with mashed-potato top, €15.95
Wine: From €19
Olesya's Wine Bar, 18 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2. Tel: (01) 672-4087, www.olesyaswinebar.com
Style: Olesya grew up in Siberia and so provides an eclectic range of Russian, French and Irish foods. dishes include Camembert fondue, herring St Petersburg, and spicy solyanka soup
Price: €4.50 – €29.95
Try: Classic beef stroganoff with mash, €21.75
Wine: From €26
Sunday Indo Life Magazine